Chasing fall in Southern California? Here’s where to go

Pumpkin patch with pumpkin wearing a face mask.
(The pumpkin patch at Cal Poly Pomona may be closed this year, but you can order a pumpkin online for curbside pickup. Credit: Tom Zasadzinski / Cal Poly Pomona; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

By Rachel Schnalzer
Design and illustrations by Jade Cuevas

Good morning, travelers!

The continuing impact of the pandemic is making autumn in Southern California look different from past years. But there are still ways to make the season special, especially if you’re willing to take day trips around Southern California.

Below are a few of the region’s fall-friendly destinations. As always, don’t forget to maintain distance from other travelers and wear a mask.

🍏 Visit Julian, Southern California’s ultimate autumn destination

Apple pie, hard cider and maybe even a nighttime chill in the air — Julian is the place to go to celebrate fall. Last year I visited the charming mountain town with a friend from San Diego. We spent the day wandering Julian’s Main Street, splitting a slice of Dutch apple pie and cider doughnut holes at the Julian Pie Co. and sampling flights at the Calico Cidery.

To comply with San Diego County’s virus orders, the Cidery is offering outdoor seating under its oak and apple trees — and asks that visitors bring a mask and commit to social distancing. Julian Farm & Orchard also provides fall activities for visitors, including hayrides, cider pressing and even ax throwing. Open Thursdays-Mondays. Admission is $10 per person; children 2 and younger are free.

Leaves fall from a trees and apples pop up around the leaves.
Make Julian, in San Diego County, your apple destination this autumn.
(Autumn Mott Rodeheaver / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🎃 Pick pumpkins in Ventura County

Those who love picking out jack-o’-lanterns are in luck: Some farms are allowing in-person, socially distanced pumpkin patch visits.


Times staff writer Jeanette Marantos has tracked down a few places where you can pick out a pumpkin, including Underwood Family Farms two Ventura County locations. I suggest making a day of it: Stop by the Underwood farm stand in Moorpark or Somis to purchase fresh produce after selecting your pumpkin. If you’re feeling ambitious, visit the Moorpark location, where you can enjoy Harvest on the Farm activities, which include a corn trail ride-through and fall-themed photo opportunities.

The pumpkin patch at Cal Poly Pomona
The pumpkin patch at Cal Poly Pomona may be closed this year, but you can order a pumpkin online for curbside pickup.
(Tom Zasadzinski / Cal Poly Pomona; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

🌵 Head to Cabazon for a date shake

While we’re on the subject of farm-fresh food, have you tried a date shake? That’s the specialty at Hadley Fruit Orchards, just off Interstate 10 in Cabazon. It’s a good pit stop on the way back to L.A. from the Coachella Valley, a destination Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds profiled in his story “Seven energizing SoCal day trips you can take, even during coronavirus.”

If you’re willing to brave the desert and its sweltering glory, you’ll have plenty of room to distance yourself as other travelers avoid the heat. Reynolds recommends hiking in one of the Indian Canyons at dawn or dusk and visiting the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert (admission by timed ticket purchased in advance). Don’t forget to grab that date shake on the way home.

Hadley's date shake
Traveling to or from Coachella Valley? Stop at Hadley Fruit Orchards for a date shake.
(Sara Butler / Pacific Magazine; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

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🏖️ Looking for an exhilarating experience? Paraglide in Torrey Pines

If you’re looking for an adrenaline boost, I recommend a trip to La Jolla for a tandem paragliding ride at the Torrey Pines Gliderport. Once you get hooked on soaring over the Pacific, the Gliderport offers flight school and certification programs for those who want to take their paragliding abilities to the next level.


Torrey Pines and La Jolla make for an ideal pandemic day-trip destination even for travelers who want a more low-key experience. Reynolds suggests visitors stop by Torrey Pines State Beach to sunbathe, grab lunch at the Cliffhanger Cafe and more.

A paraglider takes flight at sunset at Torrey Pines Glider Port in La Jolla.
A paraglider takes flight at sunset at Torrey Pines Gliderport in La Jolla.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📰 What I’m reading

  • Do you need to travel by plane in the near future? If you absolutely have to fly, Times assistant editor Jessica Roy explains how to do it as safely as possible.
  • Speaking of air travel, ever wonder about the cleanliness of the air inside LAX’s terminals? Times travel writer Christopher Reynolds has some answers for you.
  • As Hawaii plans to ease its pandemic rules in mid-October, Reynolds reports that Hawaiian Airlines will offer preflight virus testing to travelers flying from LAX and San Francisco International Airport.
  • This 175-mile trail takes you through the hidden treasures of the island of Hawaii, Karen Berger writes in her book “America’s National Historic Trails,” a portion of which was excerpted in AFAR. She describes the Ala Kahakai, a trail that honors traditional Hawaiian culture.
Flight checklist for COVID guidelines.
The new normal flight checklist.
(STIL / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)
  • America’s oldest park ranger has a message to share with you. Assistant travel editor Mary Forgione spoke with 99-year-old Betty Reid Soskin about her work with the National Park Service in a recent edition of The Wild newsletter.
  • A run-down home in Riverside bore witness to racism against Asian immigrants. Now, Jeanette Marantos reports that the Harada House has been designated one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the U.S.
  • Unafraid to go it alone? Times contributor Rosemary McClure breaks down why solo travel is expanding despite the coronavirus’ impact on tourism.
  • The clash over Confederacy monuments is particularly fraught at hallowed places such as the Gettysburg battlefield and Arlington National Cemetery. Alex Heard does a deep dive into the conflict in Outside.

💻 Can’t adventure IRL? Here’s one way to expand your horizons

Virtual travel opportunities exist in all shapes and sizes. Some consist of immersive prerecorded videos and virtual reality experiences. Others, such as tenLocals virtual trips, closely replicate in-person traveling.

When you embark on a virtual trip with tenLocals, you’re encouraged to interact with local guides as they show you around their communities. Upcoming trips include a chance to visit a family’s traditional home in Bhutan and celebrate Sukkot with a family in Israel. Hat tip to Christy Karras writing in the Seattle Times for originally reporting on tenLocals trips.

A laptop computer can be the key to your virtual tourism.
TenLocals trips help people become virtual tourists.
(Ben Kolde / Unsplash; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)

📸 Our favorite photo

🎸 Road song

A protest song masquerading as a joyful bop to blast in the car — that’s the best way to describe “Americans” by Janelle Monáe. Queue it up and let’s hit the road.

Protester raises fist with the phrase "Hold on, don't fight your war alone"
“Americans” by Janelle Monáe can offer you some joy this week.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times; photo illustration by Jade Cuevas / Los Angeles Times)